What Is Buddhism?

Buddhism is an ancient religion based on the teachings of the Buddha (“Awakened One”)—the title given to the Indian spiritual seeker Siddhartha Gautama after he attained enlightenment more than 2,600 years ago. The Buddha’s best-known teachings, the four noble truths and the eightfold path, describe the nature of human suffering and a way to liberate oneself from the existential pains of life and reach nirvana.

These teachings spread from India throughout Asia and eventually the rest of the world. While the broader Buddhist family includes many different schools with their own beliefs and practices, these various traditions share a conviction that one can come to understand the truth of existence by living an ethical life dedicated to spiritual development.

That’s the short answer, but there is a lot more to say about it. Click on the questions below to dive deeper into Buddhist teachings, history, and practices.

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Discover the major Buddhist traditions.